May 31, 2012
I am in Australia for two weeks touring turf venues and speaking at the Australian Turfgrass Conference. My first day of visiting included a half day at ANZ Stadium, formerly the Olympic Stadium when the Olympics were held here in 2000. This stadium servd as primary venue for opening ceremonies, track and field events as well as men’s and women’s football (soccer) finals.
I had the pleasure of meeting Graeme Logan, head grounds manager for the facility that is now a multi-use facility hosting Rugby League, Rugby Union, Australian Rules Football, Cricket and the occasional mega-concert like U2, Dave Matthews, etc.
It’s winter down under with highs about 20C (68F) and lows around 11 (52F) and we are approaching their shortest day of the year, so the sun is low in the sky. Turfgrass-wise most areas are warm season grasses such as Bermudagrass (Cynodon spp., known in Australia as “cooch-grass”) and native Kikuyagrass (Pennisetum spp.), with some cool-season turf such as perennial ryegrass overseeded on the Bermudagrass. This is the surface at the stadium.
Due to the low light and last summer’s record wet conditions here in Sydney, the Bermudagrass never fully emerged from dormancy. So a ryegrass surface was maintained the entire growing season. To add insult to injury the field gets covered several times per year for major corporate and concert events. Therefore light is an increasing limitation to plant survival.
In “light” of this situation, Graeme invested in a portable large scale light system from SGL Concepts to supplement with full sunlight (could not get the actual PAR from the tech person). This system is now being used in over 100 stadiums around the world including Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis. It clearly is another important tool for these multi-use stadiums faced with increasing pressure to maintain a safe natural surface while trying to meet the economic demands of a high profile venue.There is no question the level of expertise and sophistication of grounds men like Graeme begins with a formal education but also the need to be flexible and remain a life-long learner. Graeme is always seeking new solutions to the problems where research has not caught up yet. I was thrilled to share my time with him and proud to see the respect he is afforded at every level of management.